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JOUR 110: Fundamentals of Journalism

What is Media Bias?

At the root of media bias, is plain old bias, or an inclination towards a position or conclusion, often manifesting in a prejudice. Media bias, then, is simply when media outlets show an inclination towards a particular position or conclusion. 

The issue with biased media is that biased news reports present the public with an inaccurate, unbalanced, and/or unfair views of the world around them which will only lead to deeper-rooted biases.

 

Want to see clear proof of media bias? Take a side-by-side look at how different news agencies cover a story at AllSides.

How biased is your news?

When looking at easy graphics, like the media bias chart, it is always good to read about how the chart was created. Ad Fontes is upfront with their process in creating the Media Bias Chart and even includes their rubric on the about page of their website.

Interactive Version of Media Bias Chart

How can You Spot Biased News?

Reporting news is a human endeavor. It is written by humans, about humans, for humans. Every human being has their own outlook on the world, which will affect how people talk about and view events that happen. This is to say that to be human is to be biased, and those biases will always be reflected in the news to some extent. 

There are news outlets that put checks on their own biases, while other outlets embrace their particular biases. While both approaches could be useful, it is important that you know how to recognize a biased source when you encounter one. 

Need more help working through the bias of a source? Work through this worksheet:

How Can You Use Biased News?

When deciding whether to use a biased source, first you need to decide how much you trust the truthfulness of the source. If the source is so biased that you cannot trust the evidence that the author provides, DO NOT USE THE SOURCE.

However, many news sources will take a pro or con outlook on an issue, while still providing valid facts. These sources are great to use in an argumentative paper. You can also use them in informative papers, just follow these guidelines:

  1. Be aware of how a biased source is shaping your view of an issue, and attempt to remain neutral. 
  2. Be extra rigorous when fact-checking all evidence used in the source. 
  3. Identify the source's bias for your reader when you use it in a paper. 
  4. Find and present a source that has an opposing view in your paper.